The U.S. woke up this morning to news that the government was shutting down, furloughing all “non-essential” federal employees including those at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the agency which is charged protecting whales and dolphins. The NMFS is responsible for implementing both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act with programs ranging from stranding response to implementing rules to reduce ship strikes and entanglements.
Already canceled are programs designed to protect North Atlantic right whales from ship strikes. During the shutdown, no Dynamic Managed Areas will be declared to alert ships to the presence of right whales. NOAA’s right whale Sightings Advisory System’s website, which posts sightings in near real time, has already been removed. While the message on the site now reads “only web sites necessary to protect lives and property will be maintained”, these lives do not include those of protected marine mammal species.